PUBLISHED September 5, 2018 | News
SPRINGFIELD — Nancy Lieberman knows Springfield. She played for the Springfield Fame in the United States Basketball League in 1986, becoming the first woman to play on a men’s professional team.
She was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.
Now she’s back in a big way, overseeing the installation of a Dream Court at Adams Park on Wilbraham Road built by Nancy Lieberman Charities.
Dream Courts are multipurpose play spaces built in under-served communities so children can have a safe area to shoot hoops, socialize and learn about teamwork and good sportsmanship. There are now 65 across the country.
Lieberman partnered with the Springfield Police Department, City Hall and the Hall of Fame to get the project done.
“We have over 2.6 million children utilizing these Dream Courts,” Lieberman said. “We call them Dream Courts because look at me. I’m a woman, and it was my dream to play on a court and not get profiled or told that I don’t belong.”
City and Hall of Fame officials and community leaders attended a ribbon cutting to mark the official opening of the court. Speakers and guests included Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri, Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva, state Rep. Bud Williams, former Springfield and NBA basketball star Travis Best and others.
Other park improvements have been done by students at the Westover Jobs Corps Center in Chicopee, including landscaping around the court and a roof on the park pavilion.
Lieberman, an outstanding motivational speaker in her own right, spoke to the crowd about her relationship with boxing legend Muhammad Ali, pointing her words at the young faces in the audience. Her message of unity seemed to resonate as heads nodded in agreement with her words.
After cutting the ribbon, Lieberman took to the court for a little showboating by taking the ceremonial first shot. Standing with her back to the basket, she stood at center court and hurled the ball towards the net. And did it again. And again. Finally came a big swish as the ball sailed through the net and cheers from the crowd.
It may not have been in the program, but standing there taking shot after shot until it went in was probably the best lesson in perseverance of the day.